Sunday, June 28, 2009


We hear of considerable number of school girls getting pregnant and leaving their studies. Number of abandoned infants were found in Thimphu, some alive and others dead. These all point to one thing, unwarranted teenage pregnancy, a consequence of human sexuality. This article is, thus, intended to highlight issues of teenage pregnancy so that the psychology of adolescent sexuality and its consequences are understood in a better perspective.
Teenage is defined as the period from thirteen to nineteen years of age. Teenager or teen is a person whose age in this age group. The word is of recent origin, only having appeared in the mid 20th century. Equivalent words in other languages may apply to a larger age bracket, including (at least some) preteens; e.g. tiener in Dutch officially from 12, colloquially from 10. Teenager can be divided into two groups: Early Teens- Age 13-15 and Late Teens- Age 16-19. Teenage pregnancy is, therefore, the pregnancy that occurs in girls under the age of 20.
The problem of teenage pregnancy is considerably worse in the United States than in almost any other developed country. Among developed countries, the United States has one of the highest birth rates for women under 20. A detailed study comparing Canada, England and Wales, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States suggested that the problem of teen pregnancy in the United States may be related to less sex education in schools and lower availability of birth control services and supplies to adolescents. We have no such survey to substantiate the claim that teenage pregnancy is a problem in our country. Nevertheless, from whatever interaction I had with School Health in-charges during workshops, the problem exists and is likely to increase over the period of time.

In the recent times two important trends concerning adolescent sexuality have been observed. First, that the sexual intercourse among teenagers in increasing quite rapidly, particularly since 1970s. Second, the increase is more pronounced for girls than boys. Why is this happening? The most obvious answer is a gradual reversal of the sexual double standard. Historically, boys were freer to engage in sexual intercourse. Over the past thirty years teenage girls have become much more sexually active. Many teenagers do not plan to have intercourse. Often they feel that sex is something that happened to them, not something they chose to do. Probably this is the reason shy a sizable percentage of teenagers have negative feelings about sexual experiences, particularly the first one. It is reported that only 25% of the girls ever report feeling excited about their first act of intercourse, whereas nearly 50% of the boys report being excited; sixty three percent of the girls were actually afraid in contrast to only 17% of the boys reporting the same feeling.

For most teenagers one of the unintended consequences of sexual intercourse is the risk of pregnancy. Teenagers become pregnant following sexual intercourse with other teenagers or with adults. Thousands of adolescent girls face the difficult choice of terminating their pregnancies or giving birth with little in the way of emotional or financial support. For teens who give birth, there is a rough road ahead. Teenage mothers are more likely to leave school early and to experience difficulty finding adequate employment than women of similar backgrounds who delay childbirth. Often facing parenthood before they are emotionally ready and without the support of a spouse, these young mothers are also likely to encounter problems in early parent-child relationships. Moreover, many have to face prejudice and stigma from the hostile communities, and sometimes even from their unreasonable parents, which can hurt their morale severely. However, researchers have found that certain degree of resilience develops among teenage mothers and this is a plus point for later in life many show the capacity to recover both emotionally and economically.

At first glance, the frequency of teenage pregnancy is perplexing when contraceptives are so readily available these days. Why do, then, the adolescent boys and girls, fail to use them? The reason is, teenagers are sometimes remarkably unaware of how conception occurs. Many simply do not understand that pregnancy is related to sexual intercourse and a woman’s menstrual cycle. Research has shown that in societies that provide adequate information and access to contraceptive devices, the abortion rates are much lower.

When adolescent lack information, they tend to engage in sexual practices that can lead directly to pregnancy. They may practice birth control infrequently or not at all, or seek counsel of peers, who often provide incorrect information. Parents can offer much more reliable information about pregnancy, but unfortunately most parents in our society do not consider this necessary. We are a shy society and therefore treat talking sex as a taboo. Even the enlightened stratum of our society most parents do not share this information adequately. Therefore, most adolescents do not learn about sex from their parents but turn to peers, who are equally ignorant.

Unprotected sex has always involved the risk of pregnancy, but we now know that it can also lead to diseases like AIDS and hepatitis B and C, all of them do not have a cure. In spite of so much information is available in the internet and from various health sources, adolescents have shown few signs of practicing “safe sex” on a large scale. Unfortunately, we sadly foresee that these deadly diseases will become ever greater threat as today’s adolescent become young adults. Sound education about adolescent sexuality may be the best hope for effective solution.

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